Women’s water polo faces tough slate at Arizona weekend tournament

Junior driver Grace Tehaney is expected to be a key offensive asset against two ranked teams this weekend at the Arizona State Invitational. (Daily Trojan file photo)

This weekend the No. 1 USC women’s water polo team heads down to Tempe, Ariz. for the Arizona State Invitational where they will face off against No. 4 Arizona State University and No. 6 University of Michigan for two games apiece. 

Coming off a nearly two-week hiatus since their season-opening win against UC Irvine, the Trojans are hungry to show why they are at the very top of the Collegiate Water Polo Association polls.

On Friday morning, the Trojans will take on a blistering Sun Devils team that has won their first five games in dominating fashion. With their obliteration of Cal Baptist in last weekend’s two-game sweep, Arizona State has now upped their goal total to 84 on the season while only allowing 35 from their opponents. 

USC will look to record their 10th consecutive win against ASU (dating back to Feb. 2015), but doing so against a Sun Devils squad that is currently leading the nation in goals per game will be no small feat.

As they get ready for their first major outing of the year, head coach Marko Pintaric touched on Arizona State’s high-powered offense.

“They look like they have some new talent and their ability to score definitely improved,” Pintaric said. “They did train more consistently than any other team, and we see them as a very tough opponent. We will not be going into this weekend to relax, that is for sure.”

To finish off the tournament, the Trojans will face one of the better defensive teams in the country in the Michigan Wolverines. The Wolverines, like the Sun Devils, are coming into the weekend undefeated after giving up no more than seven goals in each of their first four contests. Their defensive dominance will be a tall task to overcome for senior utility Maud Megens and junior driver Grace Tehaney who combined for eight goals in their 12-7 win against UC Irvine. Michigan will be seeking their first win against USC in program history.

One of the key contributors in USC’s win against UCI was All-American senior goalie Holly Parker, who recorded nine key saves. In preparation for the upcoming games against Arizona State and Michigan, she noted how coronavirus has made their practices and time together all the more important.

“Being the best defensive team in the pool will help us move offensively,” Parker said. “But with [the coronavirus] and all these new regulations, it is very important that we take all the time we get together seriously so we can form that crucial foundation.

While USC’s roster is loaded with talent and coming into Tempe seeking big wins against two of the better teams in the country, there are still plenty of things they need to work on.

“At this point, we are worrying more about ourselves — core offense and core defense — than our opponents,” Pintaric said. “We want to improve those little things. In our game against Irvine we scored a lot of goals, but also had some bad defensive situations that created opportunities they luckily were not able to convert on.”

The Trojans will face the Sun Devils at 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday morning, respectively. They will end their weekend with a two-game battle against Michigan at 1 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday.